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Issues Archives: Volume 1 – Issue 2

Issue 2

Getting Back on the Road Faster

Opportunities for Tow Truck Operators

In today’s fast paced world our highways have become the largest rolling ware houses in the “just in time” system used in North America. Accidents happen 24/7 and vary from mild collisions to horrific multi-vehicle pileups. While emergency response teams assist the injured, the police are responsible to protect the scene from further accidents and keep the traffic moving safely through and around the area. Keeping a highway open is a top priority.

Opportunity

Closed highways mean lost dollars to the trucking industry and manufacturing world. Even though the police work diligently to reopen roadways, the current procedures for clean up can be very slow waiting for hazardous material teams to respond. This lag in the system creates a big opportunity for tow truck companies to expand their services.

Requirements

A tow operator specializing in spill response would need training and materials from accredited sources. Proper equipment includes a truck or trailer that can carry absorbents –  most commonly a loose, instant granular; socks; booms; pads; over packs and secondary containment products for “water only” to place in sewers or waterways close to the highway.  Using quality spill response products provides a timely solution so highways are left clean , safe, and open for business!

Benefits

Towing companies trained in spill response will increase their profits, save money for the insurance companies and  save on time and costs by assisting emergency response teams in getting a roadway opened quicker. Faster cleanup also means there is less chance for hydrocarbons to leach into surrounding soils or water-tables and become an environmental hazard.

Cost Effective Solutions

Aside from meeting regulatory requirements, a towing company needs cost effective, reliable products for quick, easy and safe hazardous material clean up. Clean Planet Enterprises is a US based company dedicated to cleaning up the world one spill at a time, one pallet at a time. They distribute “Spill Experts Professional blend” – an instantly encapsulating granular absorbent with a patented formula developed for outdoor use. These products out perform the traditional clay products 6:1 making them the professionals choice of absorbents. They are reusable, non-toxic ,safe for the handler and for the environment.

Advantages

Trained towing operators who can showcase their superior

Spill response products to the fire departments, police departments and insurance companies will become recognized as trusted professionals to remove wreckage and provide a specialized service – a definite advantage in the highly competitive towing industry.

How to proceed

Any tow operator interested in this ground breaking, profit producing opportunity can visit www.cleanplanetenterprises.com or www.spillexperts.com to view our product demonstration.

If you have questions, would like product demonstrations, need training or just want to know how to equip a spill trailer, feel free to contact Spill Experts in Canada at 1-877-225-9344 and speak with the chief technologist Ron Porter, a 25 year veteran firefighter and re-known certified hazardous material incident commander or Karen Seegert President of Spill Experts Inc.

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When Opportunity Goes Down The Drain

By Perry Beaty

Cleaning up an accident scene can involve more than sweeping up broken glass especially if a Big Rig is the casualty. Highway mishaps where fuel spills occur can sometimes prolong vehicle recovery efforts if it becomes necessary to pump off the fuel tanks.That task requires a certified Hazmat technician known as “HAZWOPER” an acronym for Hazardous Waste Operations.

The Federal Government requires that anyone engaging in the clean up, (remediation) or disposal of contaminates or hazardous material be trained and certified as per OSHA Regulations CFR 1910.120, which involves 40 hours of training.

Heavy duty vehicle recovery operations stand by and experience long periods of response time for clean up companies to arrive and perform their task of pumping off damaged saddle tanks before towing away the disabled unit. Youʼre already on the scene so why not take charge of the entire cleanup and collect the revenue for the fluid spill? Have your personnel certified by a Training staff which may conduct training with flexible days and hours to accommodate your business.

Your roster of towing clients is an established customer base ready for your services. Traffic accidents are not the only source of response. Loading dock mishaps at freight terminals and scheduled degreasing of fuel islands are of many opportunities.

There are Consulting entities for Insurance companies and the transportation industry for highway and rail (example) that engage in transporting hazardous goods across the nation. These Consulting firms maintain a list of qualified and certified companies that provide services to clean up any casualty in different locations in the country; (much like motor clubs for towing,flat tires, jump starts).

Once you become affiliated with many of these firms you can expect remediation calls through this medium.

Tools and supplies such as personal protective gear, absorbents, spark resistant hand tools, pumps, hoses will be your initial investment. Equipment such as backhoes or bobcats and dump trucks can be rented per job.

We all know the authorities love quick responses, and youʼre already on the scene!

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Towing and a Commercial Driver’s License

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what you need as far as a CDL to drive a wrecker or roll back. I guess the first thing would be to explain just what a CDL is, and isn’t.

If you operate any vehicle, which transports hazardous materials in sufficient quantities as to require placarding, you will need a CDL C.

If you operate a vehicle with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) OVER 26.000 lbs. you will need a CDL B.

If you operate a vehicle that is towing or pulls anything OVER 10.000 lbs GVWR, you need CDL A.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, let me explain further. Remember, this has to do with “GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING” NOT ACTUAL WEIGHT.

There are several “endorsements” (tank, hazardous etc.) most towers really don’t need.

If you are towing a vehicle which would require an endorsement, and you have the driver with you it would be covered. (Hazardous etc.)

I see a lot of ads for trucks that say “CDL beater”. What this means is the vehicle has a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less. Be careful on these!

Take this example, you have a rollback on this truck. You can load anything you want on the bed. As far as the CDL is concerned your fine (note… not the weight master, just the CDL requirements) Here is the rub…anything you put on the wheel lift is a problem. The Motor Carrier will add the GVWR of the truck and the GVWR of the towed vehicle together. If the combined GVWR is over 26,000lbs, you need a “CDL B. This is the rollback and the towed unit, not the vehicle on the bed. If we are talking about a wrecker, your hit. You will need at least a “B” If you are towing a vehicle over a GVWR of over 10,000lbs, you will need a CDL A.

Here is a combination that you might have seen….a fellow is operating a 3/4 ton pickup wrecker. He has hooked up a bare cab and chassis. This chassis has no bed, rear end, doors, front clip or motor and trans. Just a cab with two front tires. This thing can’t weigh 1500 lbs. unfortunately this chassis has a VIN tag and it reads 14,500 lbs. GVWR. This is a CDL A tow, not because of the weight but because of the GVWR of the towed unit.

My advice to all the drivers we gave CDL exams to, was “get the CDL A”. It is the same test. Yes, you have to back up your truck with a trailer, (you have to do that in this business anyway). If you don’t and get just a CDL B, you will have to take the whole test over again to upgrade to a CDL A.

The company who mounted the equipment on the chassis was required to certify the GVWR with a tag (Usually on the driver’s side door jamb) and that the vehicle meets all Fed Dot requirements. Check this tag so you can figure out if what you can tow on your wheelift. If you subtract the GVWR from 26,000 lbs. that would be the GVWR you have left to play with. Let’s say your truck has a GVWR of 21,500 lbs., (you don’t need a CDL right?) you would have 4500lbs of GVWR to load. So any car would work but not most pickups or large SUV’s. I would always tell drivers to try to load the SUV on the bed and load the car on the wheel lift. Now you are in compliance with the CDL

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD A CABLE SING?

Hopefully, most of us never have. Those that have will never forget that sound or what the winch cable did right after. I have seen major injury and even severed limbs or death.

Condition of your cable and knowing its maximum working and breaking ratings are important. Keeping the winch cable straight and even on the drum is a must. Crossing the cable over itself and tensioning it can damage it and severely weaken it. Kinks will cause broken strands within the cable. Sometimes you can fix these kinks, but the best thing is not to let this happen in the first place. Cable tensioners and roller guides help, but you need to watch your winch drum while you are winching. Keeping the cable taunt and rolled up straight will make this easier. I have never seen any tensioning device that really worked without the operator starting with a straight drum of cable and keeping the cable straight. I would always want to winch the vehicle as close to my truck as possible. Winching with weight and tension on the cable will make it roll back on the drum nice and straight. There were even times we would extend the cable all the way out, hook to a vehicle in the lot, and winch it back to the truck. This was a great way to inspect the entire cable for any rusting or damage.

From: Richard Farrell
Detroit Wrecker Sales
19630 Fitzpatrick
Detroit, MI 48228

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While You Were Out … Keeping Your Company in Motion

It’s  two  o’clock in the morning and a customer calls to get the price for a car that was towed last week.

You are at the grocery store with a cart full of groceries, and as you start putting your items on the belt and the checker has asked you if you found everything, your cell phone rings with a three car accident from the sheriff’s department.

How about this,  you and your spouse are out for dinner,  the kids have a sitter, but your company doesn’t and the phone rings during the main course with a drunk yelling at you for towing his car.

Sound familiar?  All too often this is what happens because you have no one to answer the phones when your office is closed.  So what are your options, if you have finally decided that you would like your life back ?

A storm hits your community and you lose power and phone lines,  can you transfer your company to another answering point that can continue to service your customers.

The toughest thing to do is to release control of your company, you have worked hard to make it work, you got permission from your family to be gone at all times and it does put food on the table.  Most companies are family owned and operated .  Because of this there is more on the line than the bigger corporation owned companies.  So what to do?

There are several options, and we will go into each one and look at the pros and cons.  The first one of course is to have the night time driver answer your phones.  However, this creates problems because of spotty cell phone coverage, and the other drivers are mad because he takes all of the good money calls and leaves the rest to them.  Not to mention you do run the risk of employee theft.

Next up is the family member or friend that agrees to take your phones at night and on the weekends to make a little spare spending money.  This is a great plan as long as the person can take it.  Being awake all night in your house waiting for the phone to ring is not as much fun as it sounds, after awhile fatigue sets in, the phones rings, the person is asleep and misses the call on a rollover.  It never fails.  We will ignore how hard it is to fire a family member.  This makes for interesting conversations around the thanksgiving table.

This brings us to the final three avenues open to you.  The answering service, the company  that has its own dispatch like a cab company or an ambulance company, and finally the company that does nothing but towing and recovery dispatching.

The answering service  vs a dispatch service.  What’s the difference ?  I tend to believe that the difference is that an answering service takes a call and passes the information along to someone else to take care of.  A dispatch takes that same call and turns it into an action.

There are several good reasons to use an answering service, among them cost and if you use a local company they all know your area.  The downside of course is that they answer phones for all sorts of companies and our industry is a highly specialized one.  Also you don’t want information passed from one person to another, you want the information turned into an action.

Next up is the company that has their  own dispatch but takes on outside accounts to supplement their in house costs.  While this may be attractive, because now you are dealing with a dispatch center there are a few drawbacks.  The cost may be more than an answering service, and also there may be an issue of training.  It is difficult to serve two masters.  The major drawback is that they  will take care of their own customers before they take care of yours.  In my local community we have an ambulance company that also dispatches for the industry.  As a citizen of the area, know that if I have a heart attack I want them to send the ambulance to me before dispatching a 24 hour abandoned tow.

So that leaves the dispatch centers that are dedicated to the towing and recovery industry and that is all they do.  Again, you are looking at a higher cost, but you are also getting more specialized service, because they do only one thing, dispatch for the towing industry.  There are only a hand full of these types of companies nationwide, so selection is limited.   They need a bigger market to exist, you may have a dispatcher on the west coast dispatching for an east coast company, this may result in the occasional foul up of addresses.

It is important that no matter which avenue you take you take the time to investigate each avenue given.  Just because an answering service doesn’t work for friend’s company, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.  A dispatch center may work well for a larger company but may get lost in the shuffle of a large center.  How do you stack the deck in your favor when making such an important decision ?

I am a firm believer in relationships.  The owner of the dispatch/answering service company must be someone that you feel a personal confidence in.  You must feel comfortable turning your company over to another company to run, and that can only be accomplished if you firmly believe that the owner of the after hours company  genuinely cares that your customers will be taken care of.

Ask for references, check other companies.  We are a very close knit industry and word travels fast.  What is their management structure ?   Do they have people on duty that are responsible in handling your questions should they arise.  What type of emergency procedures do they have in place, to guarantee they can stay up and running when others can’t.

The company should have the ability to handle as many inbound calls as you can throw at them.  Their phones should be recorded so that you can listen to inbound calls to guarantee that your company is well taken care of.

Make sure that they have enough staff to handle your account.  The tendency is to reduce personnel to turn a larger profit.  Service levels  fall when dispatch personnel care cut.  Investigate their web-sites, listen to calls they have handled, in other words do as much investigation into this as you would for a daycare provider, because in a very real sense that is exactly what you are doing but for your company, not a child.

Remember once you have made your choice, make sure you give the company any and all information that you can to help them be successful.  You are hiring not only a company, but you are hiring another 15 to 20 people.  That’s a lot of catchup for them to do.  Make their job easier by giving them all of the information necessary will make the transition easier.

Especially in the cases where you are using an out of town dispatch, it is vital that you keep the lines of communication open between you and your provider.  All too often a good sound working relationship is ruined by the lack of two way feedback.  The drivers and the dispatchers have to get along, and with the dispatchers being miles away, drivers will sometimes get the feeling that there is nothing that can be done if there are problems.  Make sure you have a good two way relationship with your provider and small bumps in the road will be just that and not major holes in the road, that could lead to the  degrading of your service

Regardless of whether you are a large company who wants to reduce costs by outsourcing your dispatch or you are a smaller company that is desperate for some down time, you have several areas open to you.  However, making the first step, the leap of faith is the toughest thing in the world to do, but may end up being the most important one for you and your company.

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Starting System Cables

Associated Equipment has been producing Professional Quality Booster Cables and Plug-in Starting Systems for over 60 years.  The plug-in starting system is designed with both the operator and the customer in mind.  Features include heavy-duty tangle-free cables that remain flexible in extremely cold weather, solid copper jaws with poly-vinyl insulated clamps and “Flexi-Spring” cable guards which provide a strong connection to the disabled vehicle. The Polarized Anderson and Polarized LexanTM plugs stand up to the coldest weather.  An additional feature on the Associated 6139 and 6146 cables is the patented “Stop/Go Safety Light” to further insure proper connections.  All of theses features help the operator safely and quickly start the disabled vehicle in all kinds of weather. Typical Associated Equipment Starting System Cables are 25 to 30 feet long allowing the service truck to be easily positioned to provide the best service.

Several Starting System Cable models are available:  from the Heavy Duty Polarized Anderson Type connectors Models 6118 & 6119; the Polarized Stainless Steel Receptacle Boxes Model 6136 (4 AWG) to our Super Heavy duty Model 6146 (1 AWG).  All of Associated Equipment Starting System cables are MADE IN USA.

The Polarized Anderson type plug allows connection to be made without ever lifting the service truck hood; features include a weather proof socket, patented “Flexi-Spring” cable guards and up to 34 foot of 4 AWG cable to reach the disabled vehicle.

Associated Equipment’s Polarized Stainless Steel Plug-In Receptacles can be mounted on the truck, allowing for the cable to be easily connected via a LexanTM plug. Starting System Cables come in both Heavy Duty and Super Heavy Duty models, with up to 1 AWG cable giving you the Service Truck Operator the extra power you need in extremely cold conditions. These units have 25 or 30 foot of tangle-free cable from the receptacle to the car.  The cables come with 500 Amp and 800 Amp solid copper jaws depending on model number.

Another convenient option is the Flush Mount Plug-In Polarized Stainless Steel receptacle. This flush-mounted unit has the same safety features as the standard polarized stainless steel receptacles providing the Service Truck Operator with a convenient and safe flush-mounted connection.

If you are looking for MADE IN USA QUALITY look to Associated Equipment Corporation.  Visit our website at www.associatedequip.com for more product details.

Associated Equipment Corporation
5043 Farlin Ave.
St. Louis,MO  63115
www.associatedequip.com

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Jump Packs . . . Non-traditional Uses

Todd K., AW Direct Technical Product Support

Over the years experience has taught me one thing for certain: jump packs are not just for jump-starting vehicles anymore.

The first out-of-the-ordinary use that comes to mind is bench testing 12-volt components. I was in my home shop one night trying to find a good CD-radio to install in my neighbor’s farm truck. I used my jump pack to bench test some of the six or so radios I’ve acquired over the last few years to make sure I had a good one before doing the work to install it. This way, I could stand upright at my workbench, get the wiring correct and make sure the radio was functional before lying upside down (wedged under the dash) on the floor of an unpleasant-smelling farm truck.

When I towed for a living, I used the pack to get dead cars out of park. When you get to an accident scene, sometimes the vehicle you are assigned to pick up has the battery smashed or the battery cables cut by the fire department. Getting the car into neutral to roll onto the carrier or for using skates can be both a bit of a problem and time consuming. Plugging the jump pack into the car’s accessory plug supplies you with enough power to operate the vehicle system and release the electronic parking lock system. After that, it’s easy to winch the rolling car onto the bed.

As my mind again wanders back to my towing days, I remember towing a car with a blown engine into our yard. Three weeks later, the owner stopped in to sign the title over and collect his belongings from the trunk. After walking the customer to his car I realized the battery was dead. This was one of the cars with no trunk lock and a touch pad release only. I simply went back to the shop, grabbed the trusty jump pack and accessory plug cord, then powered-up the vehicle system enough to push the trunk release on the key fob. What a time saver! It would’ve been far more complicated to go grab the shop truck, pull up close, open the hood, retrieve the jumper cables from the toolbox, hook them up to the car’s battery and THEN open the trunk.

I most recently used a jump pack in a non-traditional way when I went to purchase a Cobra Mustang. I drove my truck and trailer, since the belts and alternator were no longer on the Mustang’s motor. I couldn’t get the trailer close enough to the garage to use the electric winch, which left everyone there to check their batteries to see if we had a “close enough” match. After finding out that none of us had a top-post battery that would fit the Mustang, I again reached for my handy jump pack. I strapped the pack under the hood of the car, making sure to keep it clear of any moving parts. I then used the pack to power the electrical system. It kept the car running long enough to get it up the steep driveway to where the trailer winch could be used to get the car loaded.

I have mentioned just a few of the scenarios I recall, but the list is nearly endless in the automotive repair and recovery world (not to mention home and hobby use). I have seen jump packs strapped to 12-volt coolers to keep things cool while camping and “jeeping” in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve seen a jump pack used to save radio presets when changing batteries, or when unhooking batteries during a welding job on a vehicle. I’ve even seen a jump pack used as a back-up power source on a diver’s 12-volt compressor system.

The usefulness of the standard jump pack has grown steadily as more and more items are powered by 12- and 24-volt systems. However, there are a few things to remember when enlisting your jump pack for projects: 1) make sure your pack voltage is correct for your application 2) keep the polarity correct – positive to positive and negative to negative and 3) keep the route of current as short as possible.

Finally, let’s not forget that we can even use these wonderful little jump packs in the way they were originally intended – to jump-start vehicles. Just keep in mind that they don’t always have to be used that way!

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